One last feast
We are looking forward to one last feast on New Year’s Eve with Haggis Beef Wellington as the star of the show.
I hope we all had a Merry Christmas and are enjoying the quiet time between the two last major holidays of the year. I am looking forward to January, the chance to reset eating (and drinking) habits and welcome exercise and vegetables back into my life. We have just one more holiday to observe, New Year’s Eve, the night we say goodbye to the old year and celebrate the arrival of 2018.
We have just had a fantastic Christmas in Scotland, spending time with extended family. During the day we went on long walks and hung out and every night we stayed up late feasting and playing games. We even did a bit of singing!
I was especially pleased that we also introduced our children to the delights of a proper British Pantomime. Thats us in the Gods.
Aladdin was playing in Aberdeen and was starring JIMMY OSMOND as Abanazar. The pantomime had all the traditional silly elements and lots of local jokes about the North East of Scotland. The Dame, Widow Twanky, was played by a man, who was dressed in ever more bizarre costumes. We were encouraged to boo the baddy, Abanazar, cheer Aladdin and sing the song with the rather dodgy words on the drop down screen. Obviously the highlight was the constant references to Long Haired Lovers and Crazy Horses. Jimmy was a great sport and sang a medley of old Osmond song as he tried to woo the Princess Jasmine. Not sure it gets better than that!
New Year’s Eve or Hogmanay in Scotland
When I was young and lived in Banff, New Year’s Eve, or Hogmanay as it is known in Scotland was great fun. After an evening of dancing at the local hotel we would ‘see in’ the New Year at home, but then we would go ‘first footing‘. Armed with a bottle we would go and visit or ‘first foot’ our friends and their family. Every house would be expecting us and we would go from home to home offering and accepting a wee dram. The food was fairly traditional too. We would eat sausage rolls, cheese and pineapple on cocktail sticks and if we were lucky maybe a small bowl of soup. It was a magical night where everyone was your friend. I have vague memories of dancing an Eightsome Reel in the middle of the street with complete strangers.
The most important visitor of the evening was the first to arrive after midnight, the first foot. Tradition said that it should be a dark haired man ( no blond Vikings bearing axes please), a stranger, bearing a gift such as a piece of coal or shortbread. This would bring good luck to the household in the coming year. First footing would continue into the wee hours and then would start again the next day. Ideally you would try to visit and be visited by all your friends in the first few days of January.
Most cities in Scotland now offer major street parties with fireworks and concerts lasting well past midnight, and I suspect either attending or watching the parties on TV has replaced much of the old traditions.
New Year’s Eve in Copenhagen
We will be in Copenhagen on the 31st and are excited about spending it with just family. New Year’s Eve in Copenhagen is also rather fun, if slightly dangerous. Fireworks are purchased in large quantities at pop up stores and are let off during the day and at midnight. The main gathering point is at the Town Hall, opposite Tivoli. For the first time Tivoli is having a fireworks display on the 31st, although it also lets off fireworks every night for the week leading up to the 31st.
Everything stops for the Queen’s speech at 6pm and then the Danes either go out or eat first, then go out to party. Large quantities of alcohol are involved either way , which is not necessarily the best mix with fireworks. Everyone is advised to wear safely goggles! Apparently at midnight there is also a special cake, Kransekage, which is eaten whilst sipping champagne. Our friend Paul Hollywood has very kindly provided a recipe on the BBC Good Food website.
I think we are going to eat at home, then maybe even just watch the Tivoli fireworks from our balcony. My proposed menu is
New Year’s Eve Haggis Beef Wellington
Roasted Root Vegetables
Haggis Beef Wellington
I made this dish over Christmas and I am going to share my not desperately scientific way of doing it! This served ten people with leftovers.
For four to six people by the center cut of the fillet or the chateaubriand. You can then half the other ingredients. I made the haggis stuffed version for New Year’s Eve and it was absolutely amazing.
One whole trimmed fillet
olive oil and butter for browning
Two packs of puff pastry
Onion, finely chopped
Large pack of mushrooms, any type your choice, thinly sliced.
A little parsley
Two packs of pate, some cooked haggis or black pudding would be fantastic too! – I finally made mine with the Christmas present from Alan’s dad, the award winning haggis from Cockburns of Dingwall
Egg, beaten for egg wash
Beef stock and some red wine
Heat some olive oil and a knob of butter in a large skillet or frying pan.
Gently sauté the onions for five minutes, then add the mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms, have softened and released their liquid, about 7 minutes. Raise heat to medium-high; cook until liquid has evaporated, about 3 minutes more. Add chopped parsley and season with salt and pepper. Put to one side to cool in a small bowl. Technical point, the mushroom mixture is known as a duxelles. It is fabulous used on its own as a mushroom spread, and freezes well.
Without washing the pan add a little more oil, and increase the heat until the oil is sizzling. Using tongs quickly brown the beef on all sides, then leave to cool. Do not wash the pan as will use the ‘font’ to make a gravy.
Lay both sheets of pastry out then spread the cooled mushroom mixture in the middle. Place the cooled beef on top of the mushrooms and then spread the pate or haggis or black pudding on top. I had so much haggis I rather encased my fillet on the ‘you can never have too much of a good thing.’ principal.
Wrap the beef like a present, sealing the edges with water. Trim the excess pastry and use to decorate.
Turn the beef so the seal is on the bottom, decorate the top with the pastry trimming, I always write next year on mine so hope there is enough trimmings for 2018! You can stop at this stage and refrigerate the beef until you are ready to cook it. Remember to take it out a little early to bring the meat up to room temperature.
Preheat oven to 210c/425f
Place fillet in a large baking tray lined with greaseproof paper.
Wash pastry with beaten egg, and make a few slits in the pastry to allow the steam to escape while it is cooking.
Cook in oven for 30-40 minutes. Pastry should be brown and crisp by this stage.
Leave to sit for ten minutes then cut into large slices.
To make the gravy, deglaze the pan with some red wine and add beef stock. Cook to reduce and add some salt and pepper. Little port or Maderia would be great too.
This is a really easy way to cook potatoes, and absolutely delicious. You can cook the whole dish ahead and simply reheat on the night. I am giving you the method and how much you make will depend on how many you are cooking for!
Two potatoes per person
Double or heavy cream
Salt and pepper and nutmeg
Peel and thinly slice the potatoes. I use my mandolin for this.
Add to a large pan and cover with just enough heavy cream and milk….I use about a two thirds to one third ratio. Add salt and pepper and a little grated nutmeg.
Bring to the boil and simmer for around five minutes.
Pour potatoes and cream into a butter greased casserole dish. Try and get the slices even and only cover with just enough of the cream mixture. Top with grated parmesan.
Preheat oven to 300F/150C
Cook for 30-40 minutes until the potatoes are fully cooked, the cream is bubbling and the top has started to brown nicely.
It only remains for me to wish you a
Very Happy New Year!